CLASSIC CRIME: Simenon is criminally good


CLASSIC CRIME: Simenon is criminally good

The Widow Couderc

(Penguin Classics £10.99, 192pp)

(Penguin Classics £10.99, 192pp)

by Georges Simenon

(Penguin Classics £10.99, 192pp)

Along with 83 Maigret novels, Simenon found time to explore the wider reaches of the criminal mind. For The Widow Couderc he follows in the wake of Jean, a destitute ex-convict, as he wanders aimlessly in the French countryside hoping for something to turn up.

His luck seems to be in when he encounters Tati, a rugged widow who singlehandedly runs a farm. For board and lodging, Jean is taken on as a farmhand, a role that soon extends to the bedroom.

But an easy-going relationship comes under strain when Tati’s estranged family threaten to take over the farm, while Tati herself fears losing Jean to a rival.

First published in 1942, there is never any doubt that this poignant story will end tragically. But once started there is no turning back. The genius of Simenon, aided by a brilliant translation, compels the eye and captures the heart.

Sepulchre Street

(Head of Zeus £20, 400pp)

(Head of Zeus £20, 400pp)

by Martin Edwards

(Head of Zeus £20, 400pp)

Rachel Savernake is a 1930s feminist of independent means, who brings beauty and brains to her mission to expose the seamier side of high society.

Her latest adventure finds her at a surrealist exhibition where the artist displays live models to re-enact violent deaths. The artist herself features as Marie Antoinette on the guillotine. A performance that turns horribly real when the blade falls.

The suicide verdict is beyond question, except that before the fatal act, the victim had appealed to Rachel to unmask whoever had forced her to take her own life.

With a star-struck crime reporter in tow, Rachel embarks on a delightfully convoluted plot involving a glamourous courtesan with royal connections, a Soho gangster bent on revenge and a hit man who leaves nothing to chance.

In treating us to what is as much a thriller as a traditional mystery, Edwards hits all the right notes to create a palpable hit.

At Bertram’s Hotel

(HarperCollins £12.99, 272pp)

(HarperCollins £12.99, 272pp)

by Agatha Christie (HarperCollins £12.99, 272pp)

Braving the aches and pains of advancing age, Miss Marple is in London, resting up in the comfort of an Edwardian-style hotel catering for the better class of out-of-towners. But something is not quite right about the place.

Some of the guests strike a discordant note, while the staff are just too obsequiously attentive. It is not long before trouble erupts.

When an elderly clergyman goes missing and a man is shot dead in a nearby street, Miss Marple leaves it to the avuncular Chief Inspector Fred Davy to do the leg work in exposing the corruption that underpins the hotel’s façade of impeccable respectability. But while ostensibly concentrating on her knitting, it is Miss Marple’s powers of observation that clinch the case.

With a plot that ranks high in the Christie canon, At Bertram’s Hotel is reissued as a handsomely designed hardback, the perfect gift to oneself or a deserving friend.



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